St. Peregrine Laziosi

St. Peregrine Laziosi

A saint for cancer patients

1260-1335

Feast Day May 1

Peregrine Laziosi’s conversion came about in the middle of a street brawl. He was one of the young hotheads of Forli, an Italian town that, in a power struggle between the Holy Roman Emperor and the pope, had thrown its support behind the emperor.

So extreme was the Forlians’ rejection of papal authority that the pope placed the town under interdict: All the churches were locked up, no Masses could be celebrated and none of the sacraments were administered until the citizens of Forli repented.

Instead of making the Forlians think twice about their situation, the interdict only enraged them more; they refused to back down. In an attempt to persuade Forli to see reason, Pope Martin V sent St. Philip Benizi as his ambassador. Standing in the town’s largest piazza before a massive crowd, St. Philip urged the Forlians to come back to the Church. But the people of Forli were so embittered even an appeal from a saint didn’t move them. Th e more St. Philip spoke, the more restless the crowd became. Soon their grumbling turned to heckling, and the heckling led to a riot.

In the middle of the uproar was Peregrine Laziosi. He charged across the piazza, grabbed the front of St. Philip’s religious habit, and struck him hard across the face. In response, Philip turned the other cheek and stood waiting for another blow. Faced with such perfect Christ-like meekness, Peregrine’s rage turned to shame. Too mortified to apologize, he pushed his way through the crowd and ran home.

From that moment Peregrine’s life changed. He decided to become a Servite priest, a member of Philip Benizi’s own religious order. Once in the religious life, Peregrine strove to imitate Benizi: he became a gifted preacher and a patient, compassionate confessor and spiritual director to troubled souls.

For many years Peregrine suffered from an acute pain in his right leg. Initially doctors diagnosed it as an especially bad case of varicose veins. It was not until a nasty wound opened up on Peregrine’s knee that the doctor realized the priest had cancer. In a last-ditch effort to save his life, the physician planned to amputate.

The night before surgery Peregrine, in great pain, dragged himself to the life-size crucifix that hung in the chapter room of the monastery. Sitting at the foot of the cross he prayed until he drifted off to sleep. In a dream he saw Christ climb down from the cross and touch the cancerous limb. When Peregrine awoke, the wound on his knee was healed and there was no trace of cancer in his leg.

Craughwell is the author of more than 30 books, including "Saints Behaving Badly" and "This Saint Will Change Your Life."